Health

Supreme Court Accidentally Leaks Its Opinion Apparently Overturning Idaho Emergency Abortion Ban

An initial opinion on a critical abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court was released prematurely on Wednesday.
An initial opinion on a critical abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court was released prematurely on Wednesday. Screenshot
The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday accidentally leaked its opinion in a case involving Idaho's emergency abortion ban and it appears that the justices will be ruling against the state.

In the drafted opinion on Moyle V. United States which appeared briefly on the high court's website and was subsequently removed, the majority of justices sided with the decision to dismiss the case as “improvidently granted” or on the grounds that the court should not have taken it. They did not specify why.

This determination would reinstate a lower court's prior ruling that allowed hospitals in Idaho to perform emergency abortions despite the state’s near-total ban on the medical procedure. Per the opinion released on Wednesday, conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted against dismissing the case.

According to reports, a spokeswoman for the court confirmed that the opinion was published before the final decision. Pending its final release, it could be subject to change. There are two more opinion days in this Supreme Court term.

This is not the first mishap of its kind. A draft of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—which reversed the constitutional right to an abortion—was leaked to the media in May 2022.

The nation’s highest court heard oral arguments in late April in the case involving Idaho’s abortion ban that challenges whether a federal law that enforces emergency stabilizing care, including abortions, overrides the state mandate that only permits these procedures if, without them, a person would die.

At the core of the challenge brought forth by the Biden Administration is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. First passed in 1986, EMTALA requires all hospitals enrolled in Medicare to provide stabilizing care to patients having a medical emergency.

If these facilities fail to abide by this requirement, they risk losing the ability to participate in Medicare and other state health programs and could have their provider agreements terminated.

Idaho Solicitor General Joshua Turner argued that the state was within its jurisdiction to decide how to practice medicine and that each emergent situation would be evaluated and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Sotomayor and Kagan challenged Turner’s assertions, questioning what would occur in a series of hypothetical patient cases they presented to Turner. Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas appeared to favor siding with Turner’s arguments in tandem with their conservative counterparts.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who has notably been a voice in opposition to abortion — seemed to contradict her usual stance in her line of questioning to Turner. Barrett challenged why the high-risk examples were not exempted under Idaho’s ban if they posed the possibility of death.

Sotomayor took issue with Turner’s point that there was no objective standard to determining what to do in each situation, only a subjective one based on the physician’s good-faith decision. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued that the case was not about Idaho’s overall ban but the state’s ability to criminalize essential care.

Hospitals serve primary and maternity care providers for many, especially those living in the growing number of maternal healthcare deserts across the nation. Texas residents, in particular, face this barrier to care, with roughly 50 percent of the state’s 254 counties classified as maternal health deserts without OB-GYNS or birthing facilities as of last year.

The decision of the nation’s highest court could affect a similar case brought forth by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against the BIdne Administration, which is currently pending in the courts. Paxton initiated the lawsuit, challenging the federal government’s ability to require hospitals to offer emergency abortions.

Most recently, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas. If the ruling is challenged and goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will likely be heard in October 2025.

The final opinion on the Idaho case could come out Thursday or Friday. If the court upholds its decision from the version released on Wednesday, the matter is expected to return to lower courts.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.